We spoke with Founder and CEO, Hasna Kourda, about her amazing fashion-technology brand Save Your Wardrobe. Save Your Wardrobe is a newly-launched mobile app that acts as a wardrobe planner and auditor.
Having grown up in Tunisia with eight siblings, Hasna was greatly influenced by the frugal way of living that her parents and grandparents adopted in order to manage family resources. As a child, Hasna watched her grandmother develop methods to constantly repurpose garments once they came to the end of ‘one of their multiple lives’, such as commissioning someone to make a rug out of slices of clothing, a tradition that has continued for over 40 years and has led to several rugs being created. This notion of driving purpose-led consumption while finding solutions to combat waste, something that is synonymous with Tunisian living, is woven into the DNA of Save Your Wardrobe, and informs the ethos of the brand which aims to help people reconnect with their wardrobes.
: Hattie Burns, DUCFS 2020 PR Director
: Hasna Kourda, Founder and CEO of Save Your Wardrobe
What inspired you to create Save Your Wardrobe? Was it your family experience in Tunisia, or also things you were seeing in the fashion industry?
After high school, I moved to France, where I spent ten years studying and living; it was also the place in which I had my first experience with fast fashion. Fast fashion didn’t exist in Tunisia when I lived there, so when I went to Paris, I was shell-shocked that people were buying so much. I remember looking at them and thinking they must’ve had such an exciting social life that made them need all those clothes! But really, people were just buying these garments to wear once. They’d then forget that they even owned it.
When I moved to London, I had an experience in retail, which is when I witnessed from the inside how wasteful and disorganised the fashion industry can be. What really triggered the idea for Save Your Wardrobe was a client who came into the store where I was working along with her two daughters. At the time I thought she was purchasing for all of them, but it turns out it was actually just for her. Anyway, the lady spent around £8000 that day, but what really surprised me was that she came back two days later and bought the same items in the exact same sizes as a few days before. When I spoke to her, she told me it was for her and that she couldn’t remember buying all those clothes previously.
This was when I really realised the massive disparity between the experience I had growing up and this worrying way of shopping. I decided to do research around this, and I came to the conclusion that there was definitely a problem to solve here, and the solution should undoubtedly involve embracing digital.
I was lucky because, back then, my husband worked in tech and was converting magazines and newspapers into digital, so I could ask someone who knew about technology. We brainstormed around how we could solve this endemic problem. Initially, I was working on this part-time during my maternity leave, but when my husband asked me whether it was something that I wanted to pursue, I told him that I thought there was a really good opportunity here because the other competitors in the market weren’t fully understanding the problem and the scale of the problem.
What is the software and technology used in Save Your Wardrobe, what does it do and how does it help an app user?
The way we’ve built the digital wardrobe is through an engine which uses artificial intelligence and machine learning. It does this by looking for receipts in your inbox that are related to fashion purchases. Your email provider will send us keywords. For example, we can tell Google that we have the consent of a user to search for certain keywords in their inbox, for example ‘confirmation of purchase’, and then they will only send us back the elements that match our request. We also use computer vision, which works by automatically recognising the main features of an image. So, if it captures a dress, it can detect the style, the colour and the pattern.
Another element of the app, The Ecosystem of Services, will connect your digital wardrobe with repairs, alterations, donations, marketplaces and rent features, all of which help the user to extend the life of their garments.
But it’s not just about the consumer’s involvement in the app, is it? Brands can also gain some insight. Could you tell us a bit more about that and how they become more sustainable in their practices in doing so?
Absolutely. The idea is to get brands to understand their consumer and engage with them too. We realise that once a purchase has been completed, there is no interaction between the brand and consumer unless there is a newsletter or a marketing technique to push the customer to buy more.
There is no way to build a relationship when it comes to repairs or personalising the experience and, actually, it was this that led brands to release more and more collections every season and not focus on the quality of items. We wanted to get brands involved and to help them develop a deeper relationship with their customers. However, not all of them were convinced – they thought that because we are a young start-up there was a risk for them. Some brands have been so open-minded and so supportive, though. Farfetch, for example, which is another older and bigger start-up, really believed in us.
I guess it’s all fundamentally about coming together and collaborating to bring about tangible change.
As you are aware, one of our charity partners for 2020 was Fashion Revolution! I know that you have a relationship with them and one of their co- founders Orsola. How have they helped you and your business as you continue to evolve?
Well, Orsola has been amazing. She’s so inspiring and she makes me feel so comfortable. It’s as if you are part of her family, and that’s really amazing when you are a young start-up trying to navigate the system and the industry.
We met during Fashion Revolution Week last year and, when we met, she actually had the same idea of creating a wardrobe assistant. Getting her vision has been so helpful, and she really has helped us in ways I can’t quantify!
Actually, I can quantify it because, recently, Fashion Revolution mentioned us in one of their stories and that gave us an additional 100 followers. She has brought amazing awareness to our business.
I think, for young people, it’s still so easy to be caught up in the cycle of cheap fast fashion, and university students definitely feel that. Do you have any tips or suggestions on how young people can really cut back and stop buying new clothes?
We actually partnered with the University of Glasgow to interview 20 of our beta-testers to try and understand their consumption behaviours and their fashion mindfulness. We found, when we dug around a bit, that these beta-testers had anxiety around their wardrobe, because it was too cluttered and there was too much in such a small space. They highlighted that sometimes this would actually push them to buy something new instead of looking through their wardrobe – which is crazy! So, fast fashion isn’t healthy for the planet and it isn’t healthy for the people.
Also, what the research group really highlighted was decision fatigue. The anxieties relating to their wardrobe created a vicious circle. They also suggested that Instagram really made them feel that they needed something new, that they needed a new outfit.
A tip I would give is that the simplest and easiest thing to do is to take all the clothes out of your wardrobe, putting them back in one-by-one and remembering and thinking about why you have those clothes. You will notice that some of them need to be repaired and others could be worth selling on Depop. Have a sort-out without throwing anything in the bin.
Where do you think the fashion technology industry is going? How do you think we need to change our relationship with both technology and fashion to bring back longevity to our wardrobes?
I mean, Save Your Wardrobe is in the digital space at the moment, but I would love to see people using it when they are out and about. I would love for them to use it when they enter a shop, so they can take a step back and think, ‘Do I really need this? What should I do to revamp something that I already own?’. We need to integrate fashion technology into the physical everyday.
This weekend, I was sorting out my husband’s closet and I found some of his old pieces of clothing and they just looked so sad. I decided that I could embroider something on the shoulders to lift it. It made me realise that maybe what people need in the future is to understand the physical aspects of the clothing – the material.
We need to get closer to it and take a moment to learn a skill or two and do these things by ourselves. I think it’s a way to educate people on how to love their clothes a bit more.
Download the Save Your Wardrobe app here. Reconnect with your wardrobe.